Monday, January 4, 2010

persian cats

With Persian cats, nobody knows
what they are thinking. It’s the same
with Persian people. Heaven knows
how they intend to play the game
of politics! They are high-riskers,
and always fighting, out to catch
their enemies. They don’t have whiskers,
but quite surely love to scratch
whenever they feel irritated
by cats that are not pure-bred Persians,
and claim that they should not be hated
by specious species whose aspersions
are, they allege, unfairly cast
against them. They’ve a nasty Tom
which makes non-Persian cats aghast
because he wants to build a bomb
which could blow up all other cats
which do not purr the Persian way,
and unlike cats don’t sit on mats
and love, as Persians do, to pray.
The fact is no one really knows
what Persian cats all want, but you
should never tread upon their toes
if you’re American or Jew.
If you are either they’ll attack
you with sharp teeth and untrimmed claws,
and if you’re ginger, white or black
make sure you don’t approach their jaws.

Inspired by an article on the Iranian movie industry by Michael Slackman (“Iranian Filmmakers Keep Focus on the Turmoil,” NYT, January 4, 2010):
It keeps trying. Films are censored. Directors are prohibited to leave the country and prohibited to return home, forced to cancel projects and threatened with punishment if their films are too probing or too critical of life in the Islamic Republic. But the films keep coming, and so do the filmmakers. Bahman Ghobadi’s latest work, “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” is banned in Iran but is being passed around for free, offering a searing portrait of life through the prism of a vibrant underground music scene. The movie has songs with lyrics like these: “This is Tehran, a city where everything you see entices you, entices your soul till you realize that you are not human, just trash.” The film took the Jury’s Special Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, turning the red carpet of an international film festival into a platform to draw attention to the political crisis in Iran. Similar events occurred in Montreal, Berlin, Nuremberg, Mumbai and London, where Iranian filmmakers — by either their presence or their government-forced absence — have used their celebrity to keep the public focused on the turmoil that has roiled Iran since the presidential election in June, which opponents of the government have denounced as fraudulent. “People of my country are killed, imprisoned, tortured and raped just for their votes,” Mohsen Makhmalbaf, one of Iran’s most renowned filmmakers, said after he accepted the Freedom to Create prize in London last month. “Every award I receive means an opportunity for me to echo their voices to the world, asking for democracy for Iran and peace for the world.”…
At home in Iran, not all of the directors have embraced the call to criticize. Abbas Kiarostami, whose own poetic examinations of Iranian life have established him as the elder statesman of Iranian cinema, criticized Mr. Ghobadi’s decision to make “No One Knows About Persian Cats” without government permission, and then deciding to leave the country. That set off an unusual public debate over the role of art in Iran, and whether it should have a social-political component. Mr. Kiarostami, whose “Taste of Cherry” won the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, mentored Mr. Ghobadi, so the critique was particularly stinging, prompting Mr. Ghobadi to respond with an emotional public letter to his former teacher. “On what basis do you give yourself permission to ridicule the efforts of filmmakers who stand with the oppressed people using unacceptable words and, worse than that, speak with the same voice as religious dictators?” Mr. Ghobadi wrote. Mr. Ghobadi’s assistant said that he was traveling and not available to comment, but that he planned to return, soon. To Berlin, not Iran.


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